Editor’s note: Questions in italics were not included in IBMConnection e-newsletter.
After a 43-year career, Dan Vessely (at left), president of Iowa Bankers Mortgage Corporation, will retire this month. Bob Hartwig (at right), who has worked in various capacities with the Iowa Bankers Association over almost 26 years has been named his successor. Vessely and Hartwig recently sat down with IBA President and CEO John Sorensen (center) to discuss Vessely’s career and succession plan.
Sorensen: Dan, thank you so much for laying a strong foundation for IBMC. What do you think over your 43-year career has been the best part about serving at IBMC?
Vessely: If I looked at it as a big picture, one would be taking something as a concept and turning it into what it ended up being — my dream job and my life’s work. After I became president, I always had a vision in mind of what IBMC could be. To think that we achieved some of those goals was amazing. But you can’t have success without the contributions of many people. John, your trust in me and your faith in me to run the corporation was amazing. I was always blessed with quality people, expertise and people who were with me for 30 to 35 years through the course of their careers. Many have become friends today. That was also a big part of the success.
Sorensen: There have been a lot of changes during that time in the mortgage industry and IBMC in general. Talk about what you have seen changed over your 43 years.
Vessely: If I had to look at one thing, the biggest change would be technology—as it is with many industries or many businesses. There was a time when we all had typewriters and ledgers with pens at our desk. To see where are today with technology and the advancements that have been made and the efficiencies in the mortgage lending business has been amazing. But, you know, John, I think overall it’s still about relationships. I’ve always valued that culture at IBMC as appreciating our relationships with our homeowners, our banks, our boards, volunteers and staff. It’s always been about relationships in the end, and I think that’s what has always kept us focused.
Sorensen: What would you say to your successor, Bob Hartwig, who’s joining us here today as well about the future?
Vessely: Keep the communication lines open with your staff. You have a lot of good quality people with a lot of expertise. Communicate well with them, communicate well with your management group, with your boards and with your clientele — with the bankers. And I would say the other thing, Bob, you’ve been with the industry for a while, so trust your instincts. You will always know what’s right or wrong in your heart, as I always trusted my instincts when I communicated with my boards and my staff and my management.
Sorensen: The good news is we don’t have a rookie sitting over here. We have someone who has been at the IBA and in the banking industry for a long period of time. So, Bob, give us a thumbnail sketch of your background.
Hartwig: I started my career working for a thrift in northwest Iowa. I was a mortgage lender, and we were a Fannie Mae shop that did direct seller servicing for our customers. After several years at the bank, I decided to further my education and went to law school. I started at the IBA the Monday after I graduated from law school almost 26 years ago, and I’ve worked in three capacities with Iowa Bankers up until now. The first portion was in our compliance area, and then I spent 18 years at the state Capitol doing public policy work and representing the banking industry in front of the state Legislature. Since 2019, I’ve worked more closely with IBMC on more of a day-to-day basis as an in-house general counsel. A lot of people don’t realize that in IBMC’s 43-year history, it took 25 years to get to $1 billion worth of servicing and 18 years since that time, we’ve gone from $1 billion to $8.7 billion. It’s grown a lot in complexity and risk. and that’s enabled me to get a lot more experience.
Sorensen: Talk a little bit about how you’ve spent the past year working with Dan and prepping to step in this role.
Hartwig: Primarily since mid-summer, Dan and I have been meeting on a frequent basis. The majority of what I’ve been learning from Dan since last summer is all the stuff behind the curtain on running a mortgage company — all the accounting, how we take coverage, all the risk, the secondary marketing, how our pricing works, how our sales work on a daily basis with Fannie and Freddie and how all that flows into our monthly statements and balance sheets. That was an area I needed to work on a little bit more, so that’s where we spent most of our time getting up to speed.
Sorensen: What do you see in the year ahead for IBMC?
Hartwig: I’m really looking forward to leading a staff of good people, which is the reason I took the job, by the way, is because of who we have here. As much as I would like to emulate Dan and be Dan, I can’t be Dan in all things, so I’m going to have to forge my own path. I am looking forward to being able to lead a group of people as we move forward. We’re going to have challenging times and good times. I’m also looking forward to getting out a little bit more and telling our story to our banks across the state and in the states that we touch to help us grow our business.
Sorensen: On behalf of Iowa Bankers, thank you both for your leadership during this transition, and especially to you, Mr. Vessely, we wish you nothing but the best in retirement, in this next chapter. You’ve earned a wonderful retirement, my friend.
Vessely: Mr. Sorensen, I appreciate that very much. I can say what an honor it has been to spend my career in such a terrific organization of high integrity, serving banks the way we have and the public the way we have. I am very proud to walk away from this association, having been a part of its growth through the years and I appreciate the opportunity.